Are you a developer who has created a new app? If so, you may be wondering whether or not you should federally copyright your work. The answer, in most cases, is yes—you should copyright your app software. Read on to learn more about copyrights and how they can help protect your work.
First, you need to understand what a copyright is and what it protects.
What is a Copyright?
A copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that gives the creator of an original work the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or license that work. In the United States, copyrights are granted by the federal government and last for the life of the author plus 70 years. Protection is afforded from the moment the work is fixed in a tangible medium, but you cannot sue for infringement in federal court until you have a registration. Basically, an unregistered copyright is pretty much worthless.
How Does Copyrighting My App Help Me?
If you’ve spent any time developing an app, you know that it’s not easy—it takes a lot of time, energy, and effort to create something new and innovative. Copyrights only protect the original text, art, photos, or videos in the app. Copyrights do not protect the idea of the app, how it functions or what it does. For example, if you make an app, then your copyright will only protect your code and design, not the functionality or purpose of that app. Unfortunately, once your app is published, anyone can copy it without permission and without giving you credit. Copyrighting your app helps prevent others from doing this without permission by giving you the legal right to take action if someone does copy your work. Additionally, copyrighting your app can also help you get funding from investors as it shows that you’re serious about protecting your work.
Once you know what a copyright is and what it can protect then determine if it is worth the investment.
Factors to Consider
In general, you should copyright your app if it meets any of the following criteria:
- Your app is unique and original. This means that it’s not just a copy of another app or software that already exists. If your app is truly one-of-a-kind, copyrighting it can help you prevent others from trying to piggyback off of your success.
- Your app contains a significant amount of original code. Even if your app isn’t wholly unique, if it contains a significant amount of original code (as opposed to code that’s been borrowed or reused from other sources), copyrighting it can help you protect that investment of time and energy.
- You plan to commercially release your app. If you’re planning to release your app for sale or generate revenue from advertisements, copyrighting it can help you deter would-be infringers and safeguard your income stream.
- What type of competition do you expect? If you expect that there is a high chance that competitors will copy your app and use part of your code or design, having a copyright registration gives you leverage to keep copycats at bay.
Of course, there are other factors to consider as well, such as whether your app is currently in development or has already been released, whether you’re the sole owner of the code or there are other contributors involved.
Whether you’re just starting out as a developer or you’ve been in the business for years, it’s important to understand how copyrights work and how they can help protect your work. In most cases, it’s a good idea to copyright your app software as it gives you the legal right to take action if someone copies your work without permission. Additionally, copyrighting your app can also help you get funding from investors as it shows that you take protecting your work seriously.
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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.